Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Interspecific Coordinated Hunting in the Red Sea

It is commonly thought that animals can be arranged along a ladder of intelligence—a sort of modern-day Scala Naturae—with humans inevitably at the top, followed by our close relatives, the primates, all the way down to fish and other slimy creatures.

Over the past decade, this ladder has been challenged by claims of high intelligence and great social complexity in other animals. For example, spotted hyenas establish hierarchies in which dominant females support the rank contests of their daughters. Bottlenose dolphins form “political” coalitions every bit as complex as those of chimpanzees. Caledonian crows not only use tools in the wild, but also modify tools in the lab, an ability once thought to define humans.

And now come the fish. In an article published today in PLoS Biology, Redouan Bshary from the University of Neuchâtel and colleagues describe the astonishing discovery of coordinated hunting between groupers (Plectropomus pessuliferus) and giant moray eels (Gymnothorax javanicus) in the Red Sea. These two species make a perfectly complementary pair. The moray eel can enter crevices in the coral reef, whereas the grouper hunts in open waters around the reef. Prey can escape from the grouper by hiding in a crevice and from the moray eel by leaving the reef, but prey has nowhere to go if hunted by a combination of these two predators. The article offers a description and accompanying videos, such as the one showing a grouper and eel swimming side by side as if they are good friends on a stroll. It also offers quantification, which is truly hard to achieve in the field, of the tendencies involved in this mutually beneficial arrangement. The investigators were able to demonstrate that the two predators seek each other’s company, spending more time together than expected by chance. They also found that groupers actively recruit moray eels through a curious head shake made close to the moray eel’s head to which the eel responds by leaving its crevice and joining the grouper. Groupers showed such recruitment more often when hungry.

The observed role division comes “naturally” to two predators with different hunting specializations, and is therefore far simpler to achieve than for members of the same species. Also, recruitment is quite common in the animal kingdom—for example, primates have specialized signals to solicit each other’s support in fights. What is truly spectacular about this study is that the entire interaction pattern—two actors who seemingly know what they are going to do and how this will benefit them—is not one we usually associate with fish. This is probably because we tend to develop cognitively demanding accounts for our own behavior and believe that absent the same cognition, the behavior simply cannot take place. It is very well possible, however, that our accounts overestimate the amount of intelligence that goes into complex behavior. Moreover, we have a tendency to underestimate the intelligence of animals at lower rungs of the evolutionary ladder. In fact, it is the ladder idea itself that is wrong. The best way to approach animal intelligence is from an evolutionary and ecological perspective focused on the tasks that each species faces in nature. In this regard, these two reef predators show us that if it comes to survival, highly intelligent solutions are within the reach of animals as different from us as fish. (Watch a grouper signal to a giant moray eel resting in a cave by shaking its head in front of the moray in this video.)

... more about:
»Intelligence »Predators »eel »grouper »moray

Related video for press use:

Citation: Bshary R, Hohner A, Ait-el-Djoudi K, Fricke H (2006) Interspecific communicative and coordinated hunting between groupers and giant moray eels in the Red Sea. PLoS Biol 4(12): e431. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040431.

Andrew Hyde | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: Intelligence Predators eel grouper moray

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Molecular doorstop could be key to new tuberculosis drugs
20.03.2018 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Modified biomaterials self-assemble on temperature cues
20.03.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Thawing permafrost produces more methane than expected

20.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>